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Minneapolis Mayor Under Pressure to Step Down Over Shooting

  • VOA News

FILE - Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges speaks at a news conference in Minneapolis, March 30, 2016. Some have called for her to step down in the wake of last week's mistaken shooting of an Australian woman by a police officer.

The mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is facing calls to step down over the mistaken shooting last week of an Australian woman by a police officer.

The incident has caused dismay inside the United States and outrage in Australia. The victim, Justine Damond, 40, was a cheery blonde meditation instructor who was engaged to be married next month.

She was killed last week in the alley behind her Minneapolis home.

Mayor Betsy Hodges faced the public Friday to announce the resignation of Police Chief Janee Harteau, whose department was responsible for the shooting death of Damond, who had called emergency operators about a suspected sexual assault near her house.

'We don't want you'

But Hodges' announcement was drowned out by shouts. Activists who slipped into the news conference in Minneapolis called out, "We don't want you as our mayor of Minneapolis anymore. We don't want you to appoint anyone anymore."

Shouted down by the protesters, Hodges and her staff left the room, to chants of "Bye-bye, Betsy."

Relatives and friends of Justine Damond, who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend, stand near flowers after they held a vigil at Sydney's Freshwater Beach in Australia, July 19, 2017.
Relatives and friends of Justine Damond, who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend, stand near flowers after they held a vigil at Sydney's Freshwater Beach in Australia, July 19, 2017.

She returned to the room 20 minutes later, after the protesters left, and finished her announcement.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that a bicyclist pedaling by Damond's house saw officers performing CPR on Damond after the shooting.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said the witness had given an interview to authorities. A source said the witness took video of part of the incident.

The BCA was searching for other witnesses.

On Friday, Harteau, the police chief, posted her resignation statement on the police department's Facebook page, saying, "Last Saturday's tragedy, as well as some other recent incidents, have caused me to engage in deep reflection. ... I've decided I am willing to step aside to let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done for the MPD to be the very best it can be."

Chief criticized

Harteau has been criticized not only for the circumstances surrounding the shooting, but also for not returning early from a trip out of state after the incident happened. The department has also taken heat because the officers' body cameras were switched off when the shooting occurred, a violation of Minneapolis Police Department rules.

The incident was also not captured by the patrol car's dashboard camera.

Sue Goodstar and JR Bobbick, both of the Native Lives Matter movement, pay respects to Justine Damond who was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 17, 2017.
Sue Goodstar and JR Bobbick, both of the Native Lives Matter movement, pay respects to Justine Damond who was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 17, 2017.

Harteau first spoke out about the incident on Thursday, saying it "should not have happened." She also said, "Justine didn't have to die."

The agency investigating the shooting said one of the officers, Matthew Harrity, was startled by a loud noise just moments before his partner, Mohamed Noor, fired the deadly shot from the passenger seat.

This was the second major police shooting in the Minneapolis area in the past year.

In July 2016, Philando Castile, 32, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the sister city of St. Paul in an incident streamed live on social media by Castile's girlfriend. The officer who shot Castile, Jeronimo Yanez, was recently acquitted on charges of second-degree manslaughter.

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